Shakespeare\'s Use of Trickery and Disguise In His Plays

Shakespeare uses similar comic elements to effect similar outcomes in his
works. Many of his plays utilize trickery and disguise to accomplish similar
Trickery plays a major role in The Merchant of Venice and drives most of
the action, while mistaken identity, specifically Portia\'s disguise as the
"learned attorney\'s" representative, plays a major role in the resolution of
the play. The first instance of trickery in the play is Bassanio\'s plan to
present himself as a financially sound suitor, when in truth, he is not.
Bassanio believes that he would stand a very good chance of being the
successful suitor if he had the proper money backing him. Bassanio then goes
to his friend Antonio to try to secure a loan to provide for his wooing.

O my Antonio, had I but the means/To hold a rival
place with one of them [other suitors]/I have a
mind presages me such thrift/That I should
questionless be fortunate!" (Shakespeare,
Merchant 1.1 173-176)

However, Antonio has, "neither the money, nor commodity/to raise a present
sum" but urges Bassanio to go through Venice to try to secure a loan using
Antonio\'s bond as credit (Shakespeare, Merchant 1.1 178-179).
One of the resident money-lenders of Venice is an individual called
Shylock, a person of Jewish descent. The practice of usury was traditionally
banned by the Christian church. This allowed many Jews, because their belief
system contained no objection to profitable money-lending, to become the de
facto loan officers. Bassanio approaches Shylock to ask for a loan, and
Shylock seems as if he is going to agree, however, he first asks to speak with
Antonio. It is revealed in an aside that Shylock harbors a secret hatred of
Antonio because of his religion and Shylock\'s belief that Antonio\'s practices
drive down the interest rates that Shylock can charge in Venice. Here we see
the second instance of trickery and deception within The Merchant of Venice.
Shylock seems to have great knowledge of the positions of Antonio\'s fleet and
ominously notes that, "ships are but boards, sailors but men" (Shakespeare,
Merchant 1.3 20). Earlier in the scene Shylock seems hesitant, which, "we can
construe as playing for time while he forms his plan (Barber 211). Shylock
agrees to accept the loan, using Antonio\'s bond as credit, but refuses to
charge interest on it. Instead, he chooses, in "merry sport," to insert a
clause that states he will have the right to one pound of Antonio\'s flesh if
the bond should be forfeited. Antonio, thinking that his ships will arrive
before the date the loan falls due, agrees to the conditions that Shylock sets
forth. Clearly, Shylock has calculated that the chances of Antonio\'s fleet
not making it back to port are rather good, and this bit of trickery sets up
the main action of the play.
Trickery is also present in The Taming of the Shrew. In this work, Bianca,
the "good" daughter has three suitors vying for her love. Gremio, an old,
prosperous, and well-respected gentleman; Hortensio, another gentleman in the
town; and Lucentio, a newly arrived wealthy traveler, all will fight for her
affections. Gremio figures very little in the courting of Bianca, mostly due
to his age and small chance of success, but the remaining suitors hatch a plot
to win the love of Bianca.
Hortensio and Lucentio decide to become schoolteachers, because Baptista,
Bianca\'s father, is planning to find tutors for her. Hortensio decides to
become a music teacher, and Lucentio a Latin teacher. They approach Baptista
who consents to let them both tutor his daughters. The initial session, held
with Kate, the shrew, does not go well for either, but then they are allowed
to tutor Bianca. Lucentio eventually discloses his true identity to Bianca and
tells her their plot. Bianca reveals that she is interested in Lucentio but
still leads them both on for quite some time. This is one of the examples of
trickery and deception practiced in The Taming of the Shrew. Trickery is also
present in Much Ado About Nothing. In this work Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon,
hatches a plan to bring Beatrice and Benedick together. Benedick is a lord,
and a well-known philanderer, who is adamantly against marriage. Beatrice, a
relative of the Governor, is a witty resident of his manor. There have been
suggestions by some critics that the Kate and Beatrice characters are closely
related. "It is surprising how much Beatrice in Much Ado is modeled after Kate
in the Taming of the Shrew, given that the two